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Pannikin Coffee & Tea

The Pannikin Coffee and Tea of Encinitas stands in stately yellow Victorian building that once served as the Santa Fe train station.  It was moved to it's present location and has become a hub for good coffee, teas, food and gift shop since 1968 with the same owner.  The Pannikin roasts all of their own coffee blends and have an exotic list of teas for sale. They bake their own pastries and desserts; the cakes are a mile high and the pies are full of delectable fruits and fillings.  You're gluten free? No Problem. They make gluten free muffins that will knock your socks off. More of an egg guy or gal? You'll find wonderful egg sandwiches and other special scrambles to delight your appetite.

You can eat your food inside or take it to an outside table and bask in the sun.  Dogs are welcome and kids love to run on the grass surrounding the building.  Many people spend the day in the Adirondack lawn chairs soaking up the warm summer days relaxing over a well brewed cup of coffee or cocoa.   There is a cute gift shop with unique gifts and art on the walls for sale.  Enjoy the ambiance and understand that this is not an institutionalized coffee store.  Its is popular with lines out the door because it is unique and it's important to roll with that to get the full benefit!

Spotlight Article: Pannikin Coffee & Tea

Cruising down the 101 in Leucadia, if you happen to see a line of people protruding out the door of a bright, yellow Victorian house with pastel teacups peeking out of the windows, pull over. You’ve reached Pannikin Coffee & Tea and you’re simply not allowed to pass it up while you’re in the area. It’s like an Encinitas cardinal rule or something. Flowery patios, familiar faces and pups unite within the realms of this historical coffee shop. As a renowned coffee emporium, it is both a place to stop in for breakfast and homemade coffee and/or tea, as well as a quaint gift shop, local art distributor, but most of all: sunny social hour.

The vintage architecture stems from the year 1887 when it was once known as the original Encinitas train station located down the street  in the Lumberyard and going on to host Santa Fe Railroad freight trains after WWII. It is one of the oldest and most well-known buildings that still remains standing and breaks the mold of the abundant Spanish homes. After finally closing in 1969, the building was transported by truck to its current location on the other side of the tracks in Leucadia, and it was initially sold for $1 to be an arts and crafts shop.

That is, until 1980 when a man named Bob Sinclair bought the building and revamped its condition to fulfill its ultimate role as one of the staples in Encinitas. Sinclair ran a chain of coffee houses in San Diego; and later in 1997, a married couple, Shawn and Carol Holder bought a handful of them from Sinclair including Pannikin Coffee & Tea in Encinitas. It’s amazing how a building once going for $1.00 could turn into such a priceless, local treasure.

During my first visit to Pannikin, I went to check it out at about 2:00 on a Saturday afternoon in hopes of missing the line and avoiding a dense crowd. Although a coffee drinker myself, I did not go the coffee route given the time of day and the afternoon heat lingering in the air. I spied a fiery, red liquid in a clear plastic cup collecting condensation on my walk in which kind of sealed the deal for me. I had to figure out what that quenching, cold drink was and snag one of my own. The line was extremely painless, probably due to the timing, and I quickly spotted the list of iced tea flavors. The employees were helping customers both at the register and up and down the immediate line so I was able to get my order in promptly. I went with the blood orange iced tea-- fantastic.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t help noticing Pannikin’s beautiful exterior and welcoming sitting areas with wooden, painted furniture in both the shade and the sun. The interior is just as accommodating. There’s so many subtle and delicate details like a staircase leading to a lofted seating area, animated pictures on the menu and the walls, and a glimpse downstairs into the brewing area with big brass barrels that really make it awesome.

Pannikin actually stems from a European root word, -kin, meaning small. The former owner saw the word “pannikin” in a catalogue, which actually refers to a type of small coffee pot, and liked it so he went with it. The current owner, Shawn Holder, was there to pass on the message.

Shawn has been working at Pannikin for about 20 years and knows a lot of people around town. Having been familiar with the area for a long time, he knows Encinitas is a good home for Pannikin. “It’s a beautiful town that still looks the same as 30 to 40 years ago,” he explained, noting its prime location “right on the 101 corridor with the beach on one side.” Pointing out the thick competition in the area, Shawn consistently managed to relate back to their ability to create all of the products that they sell themselves especially bakery items and in-house brewed coffee. Ultimately, “I don’t know, I don’t go anywhere else,” he admitted. Shawn’s personal favorite, aside from the newer gluten-free options and vegetarian chili, is undoubtedly the espresso. “I think we have the best espresso in the world, and I drink it every day.” When the topic of obstacles arose, he gently explained that “the answer is always in the palm of your hand,” and as long and he and his son continue to work hard and love what they do, they can overcome any obstacle thrown their way.

The biggest secret to their success, I concluded, was Shawn’s explanation that “our motives are always pure.” I thought this was a really remarkable thing for an owner of a business to say, definitely shining light on the type of intent they have for both their visitors and neighborhood. “Business is simple but hard; you have to be committed,” he said, crediting the originality of the town itself and what it’s after. He went on to say, “it’s better than the alternative, the shopping mall, which we all dread.”

To Shawn and Encinitas, that means a timeless, successful coffee shop in a beach town totally authentic from the others. “We like sunny days better than rainy ones,” he said jokingly, and when those new guests finally make their way through, some will ask, “'Are you Mr. Pannikin?’ Well yes, in a sense.” And he’s absolutely right. It may not be a family name, but Shawn Holder embodies an Encinitas aura that exudes laid back and collected confidence-- a personality that Pannikin Coffee & Tea has adapted over its 40+ years in business and will continue to distribute in years to come.

Written by: Abbie Leming 

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